Welcome to the Taste and See: Experiencing God with Our Senses online retreat. This month we’ve explored each of the senses as a way to encounter God. Today we conclude by considering the sense of taste.
We have to eat in order to live; that’s a given. Beyond that, though, there’s a great deal of variety in what and how we eat. With a world full of flavors and tastes out there, no two people will ever have eating preferences that are exactly alike.
In fact, our very life stories are told by the things we eat. Food reflects our past, our traditions, our background, our beliefs. If we want to ponder our own God-given uniqueness, maybe a good place to start is by looking at the things on our plates.
For one thing, food can reflect our cultural heritage. The countries to which we trace our roots are often evident in the meals we eat and the tastes we find appealing, whether it’s pad thai, pierogi, or puttanesca. Likewise, our eating habits can sometimes indicate the part of the country in which we were raised. Before regional chains went national (or at least expanded their regions), it used to be that you could tell someone was from Southern California by their love of In-N-Out Burger or from New England because of their allegiance to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Food and family are tightly linked, and your relationships with others may be evident in what’s on your plate. There’s Grandma’s bean salad, Dad’s barbecue sauce, Mom’s enchiladas; the mere taste of these dishes can awaken memories of people you love and times you’ve spent together. Leafing through the family recipe box may reveal that these dishes go even further back, into generations of people you never had a chance to know personally but whose influence flavors your life all the same.
When holidays roll around, certain foods often make an appearance: the cookies of Christmastime, or the stuffing of Thanksgiving, or the special cake that Mom always makes for your birthday. What we eat reflects the things and people we celebrate, and thus shows what we honor and cherish.
Most of all, as Catholics, the eating we do every Sunday at Mass reveals a lot about our faith. When we taste the Eucharist, we are affirming our belief that Christ is truly present in that bread and wine, a belief that is at the very core of our religion.
And as different as we are, the Eucharist unites us. Wherever we are from, whoever raised us and however that affects what we eat, at Mass we all come together to taste and see the goodness of God. The flavor of the host, the sweetness of the consecrated wine—these are reminders that God loves every one of us entirely without reservation. And that wonderful truth is something to savor.
Begin. Center yourself. Take three deep breaths and open yourself to God’s presence.
Give thanks. Thank God for the variety of food in the world, for the people who prepare it and who share it with us, and for the uniqueness that each of us brings to the table of the world.
Review. Think of a few of your favorite foods. When did you start loving them? What is the story behind each one—the people, places, and experiences?
Ponder the celebrations in your life—holidays, birthdays, or big events like a job promotion or graduation or retirement. What role does food play in those celebrations?
Which foods reflect your cultural or regional background? Have you come to love foods that don’t necessarily relate to your personal culture? Think of the marvelous diversity of tastes out there and the way food can build bridges between different places and people.
Look ahead. Next time you go to Mass, think about the Eucharist as a sign of your identity. Think of how the love of God is a constant in every chapter of your life story. Savor the taste of God’s constant love.
Every day this week, at one meal, take some time to think about what you are eating or drinking. Focus on the experience and the taste. Reflect on what the food or drink reveals about you: your history, your preferences, your identity. Give thanks for the life God has given you.
Miss a post in this retreat series? See the full retreat here. Go more in-depth with the themes of this retreat by reading Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s book Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses.